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Selling is Out, Education is In

A recent stroll through a major RV show revealed an interesting fact about marketing in the RV industry. There is a misconception in the industry that marketing’s most important function is to promote products and services.

Signs and brochures about various products were plentiful. Some displays even had people standing in the isles passing out these brochures to the masses. All I could do was wonder, “Is this really the best we can do to market RV products?”

The most important function of your marketing should be to establish that you are knowledgeable and can be trusted. Most of us do business with people we trust. Even with the lowest prices and slickest brochures, if your prospect doesn’t trust you, it will be difficult to make the sale. Education-Based Marketing is the key to establishing and building the trust that is required to be a successful RV Pro.

Education-Based Marketing is a powerful marketing strategy that establishes trust and credibility using educational messages. It is the direct opposite of traditional RV marketing, which uses messages that list feature after feature without any mention of benefits.

People are tired of hearing worn-out, old, feature-based sales pitches. Barriers shoot up the moment you begin delivering that type of pitch. In contrast, people sit up and listen when you share important beneficial facts and expert information that help them make a good buying decision.

Determining Your Educational Marketing Message

Your first step in implementing an Education-Based Marketing strategy is to determine the educational message you want to deliver to your prospect.  Imagine stepping into the mind of your prospect and listening to their mental conversation at the very moment they decide to begin shopping for an RV. What questions are they asking themselves?

Develop a list of common questions you hear daily and utilize the list in all your marketing. The secret to attracting qualified prospects early in the sales cycle is to find out the answers to those questions and use them as the basis for your educational marketing message.

For instance, you might hear the question, “Do you carry any front kitchen travel trailers without a slide out?” This is a prime opportunity to give an educational answer.

Rather than answer the question with, “Yes, would you like to see one?” you might say, “Yes, they happen to be one of our best sellers because they can be towed with an SUV. Let me show you what I mean.” You have just provided the prospect with specific, educational information that can be used in the decision to buy your product.

You could also offer your prospect the choice between two free special reports, one titled “Why Brand A is the Best RV on the Market” and the other titled, “Six Little-Known Secrets to Purchasing a Front Kitchen Floor Plan.”

Which do you think would be chosen? From my experience, the second report will generate at least 10 times more prospect interest. Educational information that helps your prospects solve problems and make better decisions is the type of information that will attract prospects.

Another contrasting example might be the “One Day Sale” versus a seminar series on “10 Steps to Successfully Experiencing the RV Lifestyle.” Which message do you think would establish more trust with your prospect? Do today’s prospects really believe that a sale price is available for only one day?

Packaging the Message to Generate Prospects

Once you have developed your educational message you need to package it and offer it for free in exchange for your prospect’s contact information. A critical step in effective, Education-Based Marketing is not just a matter of getting the word out but, more importantly, getting a response back. You can package your educational message in a format your prospect will respond to such as a written special report, an audiocassette, a videotape or DVD, an e-mail course, a CD-ROM, a seminar, or even a toll-free phone message.

A campaign that offers an educational video on “Towable RV Ownership Advantages” will establish you as the expert in your market area and build the trust required by the prospect in making a buying decision. Who else would the prospect visit to purchase a Towable RV? The guy who handed him a brochure? Probably not.

An important aspect to packaging your educational message and making it enticing is to give it a great title. You’ll notice in one of the titles I just mentioned I used a number (10) and the word “steps.” People like numbered lists and knowing specific actions to take (i.e. steps). Put those two together and you have an almost irresistible title. Give your educational messages exciting titles and they will attract qualified prospects that are pre-sold on you and your products.

Delivering Your Message

 Now that you have developed and packaged your educational message, you should develop strategies and processes to give it away. To do this you must first identify all the “prospect touch points” in your business and offer your educational messages at each one of those touch points. Common prospect touch points are: your business phone, website, advertising, publicity, networking conversations, RV shows, campgrounds etc.

For example, instead of ending your business phone conversations like this: “Well Mr. Smith, thanks so much for calling and I hope you come by and visit us.”

End your phone conversation with an offer like this: “Well Mr. Smith, thanks so much for calling. By the way, we’ve just developed a great special report that talks about the top seven common mistakes that people make when buying an RV.  If you’ll give me your address I’ll send it to you free of charge. Would that be OK?”

You’ve just accomplished three very important things with this telephone strategy, (1) you’ve generated goodwill by offering a valuable free gift, (2) you got your prospect’s contact information so that you can continue to market to him, and (3) you now have a reason for a follow up phone call after he receives and has read the special report.

Resisting the Urge to Pitch

 It’s easy to set your RV business apart using Education-Based Marketing because most of your competitors are using selling-based marketing. The beauty of Education-Based Marketing is that you give prospective customers what they want, information and advice – and remove what they don’t want, a sales pitch.

By offering helpful advice, you establish yourself as an authority because prospects see you as a reliable source of information. Be careful not to give in to the urge to include a sales pitch with your educational message. This will only erode the trust you have established and make you the same as your competitors in the eyes of your prospect. Instead, after you have provided some helpful information you should warmly invite your prospects to call you, visit your website, come to your dealership, or take advantage of your offer.

Education-Based Marketing captures RV prospects earlier in the decision process and establishes a relationship of trust, resulting in dramatically higher sales and closing ratios. RV Pros that seek to develop a relationship of trust by delivering a non-threatening educational message will position themselves as their prospect’s first choice from which to buy an RV.